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Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


My latest blogging experience not only highlights the fact that volunteering is a great way to refresh employment skills prior to a return to work, but also shows that sometimes people need that bit of extra help – help that focusses on the individual as a whole, aimed at all their problems, not just their lack of employment.

I would like to give a Big Thank You to Sarah (not her real name) who gave me her story.

After a 12 year break in her employment history (the last time she worked was in the South East of England, where she held a variety of clerical roles including a stint as an Employment Advisor with the Job Centre) Sarah needed to refresh her skills and gain some up to date references and work history.

Sarah moved to the area with her eldest son to stay with her sister and had applied for many jobs, but through feedback she received on her applications, she soon realized she needed to refresh her skills. Like many people, she found herself in a ridiculous vicious circle of not being able to get the current experience she needed because she lacked current experience!!

After a period struggling on no income, Sarah was initially referred for employment support by the ‘Word of Life’ Church to enable her to access computers and join the Job Club. However, she was then able to get help from a number of other organisations and soon she was not only receiving support to access computers but also discovered what benefits she was entitled to and was helped with other family and accommodation issues. Soon she found that her confidence in her own abilities and skills was returning and, with additional support, Sarah began volunteering at the local Credit Union to gain some of the valuable current work experience she needs.

When asked what her initial expectations of volunteering had been, Sarah says she went into volunteering with an open attitude and has found that her role, which involves administration and customer service work, is very rewarding. She was naturally apprehensive on her first day but as soon as someone suggested that she file some documents, she immediately relaxed. “Then, I knew what I was doing!” she says.

Sarah feels she fits in well at her placement and has found her new colleagues to be “easy and welcoming” and “very, very supportive!”  Her duties as varied and include administration and receptionist work, making phone calls, opening mail, as well as taking enquiries about withdrawals through BACS, handling requests for loans, booking in appointments and giving out appropriate documentation. Sarah also handles cash and checks the previous day balance and close against the new day balance.

Sarah feels she has definitely developed through this experience and, due to her contact with the people that the Credit Union supports, says she has not only improved her customer service skills but also acquired new financial skills that she hadn’t previously possessed.  Sarah receives supervision from her Service Manager, who quickly reassured her that her development was very important to the organisation and that any issues she encountered would be promptly addressed.

When asked what she has found to be the most positive thing about volunteering, Sarah immediately said “Oh, being able to update my CV with new and more current skills!”

Sarah also feels that her engagement with the organisations involved in helping her deal holistically with her problems and find a volunteering role, as well as her voluntary experience with the Credit Union itself, have all had positive consequences. In fact, recently she has been offered interviews and feels that it’s now only a matter of time before she secures employment.

As Sarah’s story highlights, there are many reasons for volunteering. So, If you or anybody you know would like to become a volunteer then please visit NCVA website at www.nortumberlandcva.org.uk and check out our data base of more than 140 volunteer opportunities. If you’d like to talk to me about your volunteering experiences, please email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Northumberland CVA

Providing 30 years of support to the voluntary and community sector


September: Bringing the community together


Most voluntary and community organisations wish to host an event at some time. Whether it’s a street party, a volunteer event, a fundraiser or a firework display, such events help to encourage people to play an active part in their community. However, there’s a lot you need to be aware of before you start.

Organising a successful event is really all about good planning and taking sensible precautions where necessary. This blog – the sixth in our series of themed tips to celebrate our 30 years of providing support to the voluntary and community sector – offers 30 tips to make planning your community event a success.



1: Be clear on what you want to achieve...

Make sure your objectives are clear right at the start of your planning. Do you want to raise money for a good cause, bring the community together, encourage participation in local sport, ask people to take action on a particular local issue, or simply have fun?

2: …and on who the event is for

Is your event specifically for your local community or will you want to open it up to a wider area? Is it primarily for children, or for older people? Your answers here will help you work out your planning for the day itself.

3: Make sure you give yourself enough time to organise the event

Lots of things can affect the amount of time you need to plan your event. If you have a particular venue and specific dates in mind, you need to get your booking in their calendar as early as possible. If you want to book speakers or entertainers, you need to do so well in advance. You should allow roughly three months to plan a small event, six months for a medium event, and 12-18 months for a large event

4: Set a realistic budget

It’s vital that even before you book the venue you need to set a realistic budget for your event, with an allowance for contingencies. Be realistic. It’s better to underestimate income and slightly overestimate costs. Have you thought about the cost of venue hire, entertainment, insurance and any necessary permits, publicity, equipment, catering, decorations, transport, volunteers’ expenses, and prizes? Set up a simple spreadsheet to keep track of the money.

5: Look at ways you can generate money to cover the costs

Thing about the possibility of asking for donations from local businesses, running a raffle, selling refreshments, or charging stallholders and/or catering suppliers for allowing them to sell their goods at your event. Do try to avoid charging an attendance fee, as this may increase some of your licence fees and may lead you into a formal contract to provide those goods and services, with the attendant risks if they are not provided or of inadequate quality. Identify the breakeven point and be prepared to make savings in your budget in ways that won't affect people’s enjoyment of the event.

6: Apply for funding in plenty of time

If you can’t cover all your costs using the suggestions above and you need to apply for funding, be aware that it can take 12-16 weeks, or sometimes even longer for an application to be granted. If you’re not sure where to start, contact Northumberland CVA’s funding officer, Marc Johnson by calling 01670 858688 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit the funding pages of our website: www.northumberlandcva.org.uk.

7: Decide if you want to involve other organisations or agencies

Involving other organisations or agencies can add an extra dimension and they may have the expertise to take a major part of organising the event off your hands. But consider carefully how you want to involve them, how they could contribute, and what they will need in terms space, facilities and catering and keep them regularly updated about what is going on.

8: Pull together a planning team

Working with a team of people will make planning your event easier. It is a good idea to have a core group of people who will help but the size of your team can vary depending on the scale of the event.  Having too many people on board can confuse and complicate things if you’re not careful, whereas having too few can put a greater onus on individuals to get things done. If you have decided to involve another organisation, it could be a good idea to involve them at this early stage.

9: Share out the work

Perhaps the people in your team have useful existing skills so do make use of them. Allot responsibility not just for arranging a date, booking a venue, and organising catering, but also for things like marketing, safety and logistics, which will vary depending on your event.

10: Create an action plan

Creating an action plan with deadlines/milestones for key activities and a named person to take responsibility can help to keep your planning on track. It will also help focus activity on the order in which things need to be completed. If you know how to create a Gantt chart, this is a great visual aid. It can illustrate your project schedule and show activity against time.

11: Make sure everyone knows what needs to be done and when

This is not simply about dishing out a list of tasks right at the beginning of the planning process and then leaving everyone to it. Arrange regular catch-up meetings so everyone is aware of the big picture and how their own area of responsibility fits in. Knowing that other people are waiting for a certain task to be complete in order to carry out their own work can help team members to keep to schedule.

12: Pick a date and time

The date you pick for your event is very important to make sure the people you’re aiming the event at are able to attend. For a family fun day, a weekend or a date during school holidays would be best, but if it’s an action day or a then maybe a week day during term time would be better. Ensure everyone involved in running the event is available on the date and that your venue and any guests or entertainers are also available.  Think about the time too, and what that may mean for traffic, school runs, availability of public transport and the safety of attendees. And try to avoid clashes with similar events that may be taking place nearby

13: Ensure your chosen venue is appropriate for your event

Do you need outside space, one big room or more than one smaller room? Is your venue fully accessible to all? Is it easy to find? Is it close to public transport links? Is car parking adequate? Think about catering facilities – are they adequate too? Can you bring your own refreshments or do you need to have them supplied by the venue? Are there enough toilets? Are Health & Safety provisions clear? If you need additional support equipment, will it be available? And very importantly, is the venue within your budget?

14: Think about the amount of people you can invite

Work out the number of people you want to invite. Can you fit the maximum amount in? Are facilities adequate? Can you afford to cater for them all? Remember that the bigger the event, the more people you will need to plan and organise on the day itself, and the more time you will need to give yourself to plan and prepare beforehand.

15: Decide on your activities

Will you have activities for a range of different people? Consider families, children and people with different needs. Consider the impact of the event on your neighbourhood, particularly the noise level – make sure it isn't too loud and doesn't go on too late. Make sure that residents and businesses are aware of what is going on and have the opportunity to let you know of any concerns they may have. There may be specialist guidance available for the sort of activities you want to put on – see the list at the end of this blog (The list is not exhaustive. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, google it and see what comes up).

16: Apply for any special licences or permissions you may need

Many community activities don’t need a licence, but you do need to check the situation early on because it can sometimes take a long time to apply. Read our Factsheet ‘Organising a Community Event’ for more information on any permissions you may need and how to go about applying.   Check if your venue is already licenced if you want to sell alcohol, provide late night refreshment (hot food or drink served after 11.00pm), show films or theatre performances, put on music and dancing. If not, you may be able to get a Temporary Event Notice from Northumberland County Council: www.northumberland.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=557 .

17: Think about publicising the event

First things first, make sure you know how much money you have to spend on publicity. Then, once you have all the details booked, and you know who it’s targeted at, you can begin to publicise it.  It may sound obvious but ensure that the date and time of the event, the venue and the attractions of the day are clear. It is also a good idea to provide contact details so people can find out further information if they need it.  You should also make sure you get your publicity out early enough for it to be distributed and read - don’t wait until the last moment to advertise.

18: Decide where to place your publicity

How and where you publicise the event depends on the scale, budget and resources you have. Think about who you want it to reach and where those people are most likely to see your information, as well as what images are most likely to attract them to the event.   Put flyers through letterboxes and posters in shop windows or on community noticeboards. Leave leaflets in places where the people you want to reach are likely to go. Use social media. Send a letter or advert in a community newsletter, put a piece in the local paper or find out if local radio could make an announcement for the event.



19: Make sure you have insurance to cover the event

There is no law that says you must buy public liability insurance for a voluntary or community event but you have a responsibility to do what you can to ensure people don’t get hurt and so you might want to make sure you are covered in case something goes wrong and someone makes a claim against you. However, if most of the people who come to your activities are members or supporters of your organisation they are unlikely to want to make a claim against you. It’s also possible that the venue you’ve chosen might have their own public liability insurance that also covers your activities. On the other hand, if the venue doesn’t have its own insurance it may insist that your event is insured and, if you’re applying for funding, some funders insist on you having insurance as a condition of awarding a grant. See www.resourcecentre.org.uk/information/public-liability/ for more information.  Remember though, that having insurance is no substitute for thorough planning.

20: Make sure any food you serve is safe

If you want to provide or sell food at an event, here are some basic questions you need to be able to answer: Are the food preparation and serving facilities and equipment clean and in good repair? Are they suitably situated so that the food does not become contaminated? Are the washing facilities adequate? Is there someone who can answer questions about the origin of the food and its ingredients for people who have food allergies? Visit the Food Standards Agency website for more information on food safety for voluntary and community events and/or get advice from food safety officers at your local council.

21: Carry out a Risk Assessment

Carry out a risk assessment of the venue and any equipment you are using. Mostly this involves using common sense but there is also lots of information available online – in particular on the Health and Safety Executive website: www.hse.gov.uk/event-safety/managing-an-event.htm.

22: Don’t forget about Fire Safety…

Anyone providing a venue for a public event must assess the risk from fire to those using the premises and ensure that the fire safety measures in place are suitable to protect lives in the event of a fire. Make sure you know what fire safety arrangements are in place at your venue and make sure you know what to do should a fire break out. Ask: Is the fire alarm working? Are the fire exits obvious and/or clearly signposted? Are there enough exits to let everyone, including anyone who may be disabled or particularly vulnerable, leave quickly and easily in the event of a fire? Who will be responsible for evacuating the building should it be necessary? Where are fire extinguishers or fire blankets situated? Is there suitable access for the emergency services?  If you are planning an event that includes bonfires, fireworks or Chinese/sky lanterns you should visit the specialist guidance link at the foot of this blog

23: …or First Aid

Decide who will be responsible for first aid on the day. For large events, you could ask a first aid organisation to attend. Even if you are just using your own volunteers, you need to have a visible first aid point at large events and people who are taking the role of first aiders. Some of your volunteers may already have first aid training, or the venue may have its own first aiders.



24: Arrive early to set things up

Ensure everything is set up according to your plans. Confirm that everyone knows what their specific roles are. Make sure the official personnel and anyone involved in health and safety are clearly identified and ensure that facilities such as toilets and refreshments are clearly signposted.

25: Record the event

If you are keeping a record of attendees, set up a signing in sheet at the entrance to your event.

Take photographs and/or videos of the event - ensuring you have permission from attendees beforehand. Ask people to tell you how they’re enjoying themselves and record their comments – again, with permission, or ask them to fill in evaluation forms. You could put up signs informing people that you will be photographing the event, although you still need to ask individual permission when taking the actual photos, and you should gain parental consent before photographing children.

26: Keep checking

Regularly check to make sure that rubbish isn’t building up, and keep fire exits free from obstruction. And make sure that those manning stalls or organising activities don’t run out of supplies or small change. Keep an eye out for potential issues and tackle them before they become real problems – it helps if you’ve encouraged everyone at the event to take responsibility for themselves and their children.

27: Relax and try to enjoy it!

You’ve worked long and hard to make this event a success. Once you are sure everything is running smoothly, take a moment, breath out slowly and enjoy yourself.




28: Keep the money safe

If you’ve organised a fundraising event with different stalls, you might want to count takings from the different stalls separately and bank the cash as soon as possible. Counting takings separately will allow you work out which activities made money and which didn’t do so well so you can make a more accurate budget for your next event.

29: Clean up

Check the terms of your venue hire agreement to see exactly what the owner of the venue expects you to clear up and make sure you leave those areas clean and tidy.

30: Thank everyone

Remember to thank your planning team, other volunteers and helpers; they’ve done a sterling job. Don’t forget to also report back to and thank funders, sponsors, etc. Use some of the photographs and quotes you gathered on the day to illustrate how your event went and if your event was a fundraiser, let people know how much you raised on the day.



Specialist guidance

Street Parties:

 Firework displays and Chinese/sky lanterns

Cycling events

Running events

 Community Games

 Screening a film


Street Collections

General guidance


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Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


Wow! It has now been 6 months since I became a volunteer and the time has just flown! Not only have I changed, but so too has my role! I believe that, from the very beginning, what has kept me coming back week after week has been the variety of experiences and challenges I have faced.

I began my adventures doing data entry and trying to get to grips with Volunteer Connect, Northumberland CVA’s online database that helps match volunteers with the organisations that offer volunteering opportunities. I initially found this very difficult because I hadn’t used a PC for many years and had not used a data entry system for over 6 years. Indeed, just getting to grips with my own computer password was an achievement in itself! But thanks to the help of very patient colleagues I regained some computer literacy!

I went on to attend meetings to find out exactly what Northumberland CVA does, and its variety of functions. I have chatted to potential volunteers here at the office and gone through the opportunities on Volunteer Connect with them to encourage them to volunteer. I have handed out flyers in Ashington (despite heavy rain!) inviting the public to attend a Volunteers Fair, which I also helped to set up (with, I must say, some very artistic and strategic placing of the bunting!). I have supplied the Local Authority with 40 volunteering opportunities to post on their own internal intranet system. I have used Microsoft Publisher for the first time and produced my own flyer to encourage people to volunteer. I have been interviewed on Koast Radio and have become a voice-over for a short film.

Indeed, I think my participation in a conversation on Koast Radio has been my most memorable moment so far in my volunteering career! In fact, our volunteering development officer Michelle deliberately didn’t tell me about it and I had no idea we were going to be interviewed until 2 hours before we left the office – which with hindsight was perhaps a good thing because I would have probably ‘bottled’ it had I been given more time to think!

I have also met a lot of very fascinating people who have had some very interesting stories to tell and so far I’ve written 9 blogs (this one is number 10). What struck me most about all of these stories is that everyone wanted to do something different from their day to day lives; they wanted to use skills they already had, as well as acquiring new ones. And all felt challenged, in a positive way, by their volunteering experiences. Many people got so much out of it that they became ‘serial volunteers’ because every role has its own rewards! All described an increase in their self-confidence, a sense of purpose and achievement, of belonging and friendship, but overall every individual expressed positive effects from their involvement.

I too have found that volunteering has given me a sense of purpose and increased my confidence. I really appreciate the support, sense of camaraderie and banter amongst my colleagues within the office. I’ve also found working in creative collaboration with Michelle to be a very rewarding experience… Thank you Michelle!

To her credit, Michelle took on the task of being my supervisor, my ‘go to person’ and she has been amazingly supportive. I have had a supervision chat every 3 months in a coffee shop of my choice, where we sit and discuss what has happened, how I feel about it and decide on a loose plan of action for the next 3 months. Thanks to Michelle also for the really imaginative and thoughtful things she does to spread happiness, such as the ‘Gratitude Flower’ and my 6-month Anniversary card, as well as the very tasty scones she made for us all! Indeed, what has really surprised me about my role is just how much I love the creative side of what I have been doing. Although biographical writing was part of my previous working life, creating flyers and making a film are completely new activities for me – but they definitely utilise an innate artistic skill I’ve probably always had, and rarely used.

Finally, I would like to say to anybody out there reading this, do a little bit of research, go online and have a look at the opportunities available on Northumberland CVA’s Volunteer Connect, or come in to the office to examine the opportunities available if you feel you need a bit of extra support. You‘ll be amazed by the variety.

Think about your past experiences, what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy, what skills you have and what skills you’d like to learn? Never feel you have nothing to give because there is always that special someone (you!) who is needed for as much or as little time as you can give! You can work with people, animals, or vehicles, in the countryside or in an office. You can have a ‘behind the scenes’ role or be more of a ‘people person’. The choice is yours because just as you are different so too are the volunteering opportunities out there!

If you are currently a volunteer and would like to tell your story to encourage others to volunteer, please drop me an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you'd like to try volunteering yourself, you can find a wealth of available Northumberland opportunities on our Volunteer Connect database.

GDPR: Our own journey to compliance – Part 2


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Jackie Auld

6th September 2017


You may remember from my first blog in this new series, which charts Northumberland CVA’s journey towards GDPR compliance, that we’d initially identified two equally important action points: carrying out an information audit and bringing our consent requests and privacy notices up to scratch to comply with the new legislation, so here’s a quick update:

  • Consent requests and privacy notices: New compliant versions have now been prepared for paper forms and webpages but are not yet all in place. We have de-activated our online application form for the VCS Assembly and a compliant downloadable form will very soon be in place. We have been very careful to ensure that the information is written in clear and plain language and that it covers everything it should, including the rights of the individual data subject and how they can exercise them easily (ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/individuals-rights/the-right-to-be-informed/).
  • Information audit: We’ve updated our retention policy and applied it to the personal data we currently hold. All of our staff members – including myself – are now working towards a deadline to delete or otherwise destroy any out of date or unnecessary personal data they have amassed in both electronic and paper files. Everything that has been deemed necessary to retain, in the interests of delivering our current work, will form part of our next step in the process, conducting the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA).

Conducting a PIA is a process which helps an organisation to identify and reduce the privacy risks of a project and forms part of the Privacy by Design approach stipulated by the GDPR. Ideally, a PIA should be carried out at the very beginning of any project but if this has not happened, then it can still be done when a project is up and running. The Information Commissioner’s website has a useful document: ‘Conducting Privacy Impact Assessments Code of Practice’, which they say is unlikely to change under the GDPR. In the ICO’s initial document: ‘Preparing for the GDPR: 12 Steps to Take Now’ (now updated), the PIA is covered in Step 10.

As for Steps 1-9, we are continuing to raise awareness (Step 1) through our e-bulletin and through this blog, as well as in staff and trustee meetings. We have now carried out an Information Audit (Step 2) and we are in the process of covering Steps 3, 4 and 7 in our consent requests and privacy notices, although we haven’t yet touched on Step 5, which covers Subject Access requests. We’ve decided to leave that to one side for the moment, along with Step 9 (Data Breaches) to concentrate on once we’ve done our PIA. Since we do not work directly with children, Step 8 is also not a priority at this point. Step 6 is all about identifying and documenting the lawful basis for your processing activity, which we’ll be covering as part of the PIA, although we have already touched on this in our work on consent requests and privacy notices.

The majority of information and guidance on GDPR available to this point has been around the issue of consent, but this is only one of the six lawful bases for processing under the GDPR. Another basis that could be very relevant to the voluntary and community sector is that of ‘Necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the controller or a third party’, and whilst official guidance will not be available until well into the New Year, as the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham says, “there is already guidance about legitimate interests under the current law on the ICO website and from the Article 29 Working Party” that is unlikely to change significantly. It’s important to remember though that you cannot apply legitimate interests “where such interests are overridden by the interests, rights or freedoms of the data subject”.

Depending on the sort of work you do, there may be other lawful bases you can apply. For instance, ‘Processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation’ is likely to apply when it comes to dealing with HMRC and to comply with employment or safeguarding law etc. And you may use the basis: ‘Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject or to take steps to enter into a contract’ if you are taking payment for goods or services or perhaps to cover membership activities – we are exploring this now for our own memberships.

The one big thing you do need to remember though is that, whilst you may rely on ‘legitimate interests’, ‘legal obligation’ or ‘performance of a contract’ as the bases for gathering and processing information in the first place, you would not necessarily then be able to rely on the same bases for any additional processing you might want to carry out for purposes such as sending out e-bulletins, invitations to events, combining datasets etc. To cover such additional activities you would need to obtain separate consent.

So, back to the PIA: there is no legal requirement to carry out a Privacy Impact Assessment unless processing is “likely to result in a high riskalthough in draft guidance the GDPR Article 29 Working Party has recommended that, if in doubt: carry one out.

I can’t think of a VCS organisation in Northumberland that routinely carries out high risk activities as specified in the draft guidance, for example: “systematic and extensive evaluation of personal aspects relating to natural persons, based on automated processing” or “systematic monitoring of a publicly accessible area on a large scale”, although perhaps one or two of you do. And in fact, the WP suggests that even employee monitoring should be subject to a DPIA because it involves systematic monitoring and a vulnerable group (in that there can never be a balance of power in the relationship between the employer and the employee). So if your work includes the matching and combining of datasets, if you work with vulnerable individuals, or you process data which has the effect of refusing people access to a contract or service, then you really do need to cover your work with a PIA, which in GDPR-speak is referred to as a ‘DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment)’.

According to the Article 29 WP, a DPIA should be carried out at an early enough stage in a project that recommendations can be acted on, and should then be continuously reviewed. The ‘data controller’ (i.e. your organisation) is ultimately responsible, although it could seek external assistance. A ‘data processor’ may be required to help if it is largely responsible for the processing (This could be any third party processor for your data, and not only the third party fundraisers that have been all over the news). Although not every organisation needs to appoint a ‘Data Protection Officer (DPO)’, if you have one he/she must be involved in this process and must monitor performance of the DPIA (Find out whether your organisation needs to appoint a Data Protection Officer). Also, where appropriate’ the controller should seek the views of ‘data subjects’ (the individuals whose personal data you are processing) by means of a survey or study etc. If you decide not to seek their views, you should document your decision and your reasons for it as part of your DPIA.

Step 1 in carrying out a PIA, according to the ICO guidance under existing legislation, is to identify the need for one. Helpfully, in Annex one of ‘Conducting Privacy Impact Assessments Code of Practice’, the ICO provides a list of screening questions that can help you decide whether a PIA is necessary, which along with a very simple template for carrying out your PIA is available to download in an editable format.

Step 2 asks you to “describe information flows” (PIA) or “describe the processing” (DPIA), which essentially mean the same thing. To do this, you need to explain how the information will be obtained, used and retained. As the PIA Code of Practice explains on pages 12 & 13, this can help you identify and put measures in place to tackle any potential for what they call ‘function creep’ i.e.: any possible unforeseen or unintended uses of the data.

Whilst researching ways other organisations describe information flows, I came across lots of examples of data flow diagrams and I think this is a great method for helping your team and other stakeholders visualise what happens to personal data within your organisation in order to identify where a breach may occur and the best measures to lower the risks involved. According to Wikipedia, “a data flow diagram (DFD) is a graphical representation of the ‘flow’ of data through an information system, modelling its process aspects.”

You can make your diagram as simple or as complicated as you like. You don’t need specialist design skills to create it. Google the term ‘data flow diagram’ and click on ‘images’ to see reams and reams of examples. If you have access to tools like PRINCE2 or Agile software you can use them to create your diagrams. Alternatively, you could use the SmartArt Graphics available in Microsoft programs, or you could simply use pen and paper. The important thing is that you identify every point in your organisation at which a form of processing takes place on the personal data you gather and store as a part of your work.

If the work of your organisation has only one or two strands, it needn’t take a huge amount of time to map your data flows. However, Northumberland CVA has a multitude of different projects and themes of work as well as our core activities and I have found it to be much simpler, in terms of creating a clear visual aid, to tackle each theme/project separately. That means lots of diagrams. At this point in time, I’ve completed three out of a possible six.

Prior to Step 3 you need to think about consultation and the steps you will take to ensure you identify and address any privacy risks. You need to list who is/was involved both internally and externally, and how you will carry out or have carried out your consultation. You can link this to any wider project management processes if you have them. If you’re doing your PIA/DPIA as part of the planning process for a brand new project, you would most likely be carrying out some form of consultation anyway and data protection could easily become part of that. At Northumberland CVA, since our PIAs concerns projects that have been in operation for some time, we are consulting internally at present but will look at carrying out external consultation if and when it becomes necessary.  

Step 3: This is where you list the processing points you have identified in your DFDs and set about identifying the key privacy risks and any associated compliance and corporate risks. An Excel spreadsheet is ideal for this purpose (Quick tip: this is much easier to do, and for others to follow, if you remember to number each processing point on your diagram first).

Step 4 is where you identify and describe any actions you take already or plan to adopt as solutions to reduce the risk of a data breach and this can simply become another column in your spreadsheet, like so:


NCVA Personal Data Flow Risk Chartxx


You’ll notice that I’ve also added columns for identifying the legal basis for processing, for recording who it is who has approved the solutions and the date they have done so. You can format your spreadsheet any way you like. You may find it useful to do what we are doing in colour coding your risk level as red/amber/green for high/medium/low. You may choose to make your spreadsheet simpler than this and perhaps use the editable template in Annex one of ‘Conducting Privacy Impact Assessments Code of Practice’. That’s absolutely fine. We’re completing a separate spreadsheet for each data flow diagram.

Step 5 of your PIA/DPIA is about signing off and recording your PIA outcomes and Step 6 is about integrating them back into your project plan and processes. We haven’t got that far yet, but we’re getting there.

All of these steps follow those listed in Annexes one and two of ‘Conducting Privacy Impact Assessments Code of Practice’. The guidance on conducting a DPIA under the GDPR is not yet set in stone, but is likely to be broadly the same. For many organisations this a huge piece of work and so it makes sense to get as far as we can using the existing guidance so that any changes that do need to be made closer to the deadline of May 25th 2018, if any, are likely just to mean small tweaks here and there.

This is what I’m going to be working on for quite some weeks yet I think. Once finished, we’ll have a detailed data flow diagram for each aspect of our work, accompanied by a separate spreadsheet for each one. But not every organisation will need to split its work up like that. Whatever you decide, do make sure you consider every single point at which you process data. I’ve discovered that carrying out a PIA is a great way to put your processes under the microscope and hunt out every piece of outdated data and every unnecessary and soon to become unlawful processing activity.

I’ll update you on our progress in our next GDPR blog. Please do share your own progress towards GDPR compliance; simply email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me on 01670 858688.

If you’d like to keep up to date with any new developments on GDPR, visit the ICO webpages: ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/


Blyth Tall Ships volunteers

Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


My second Blog adventure with a nautical theme is actually the result of two separate interviews and again I’d like to thank Clive Gray, the Chief Executive of Blyth Tall Ship Project, for his help in linking me up with these wonderful volunteers: Maureen, Julie, Janice and Astrid, who all give their time to the Blyth Tall ship project. Maureen and Julie work on a part of the project that is preserving and archiving a huge store of old maritime documents, while Janice and Astrid are working on creating traditionally-inspired ‘ganseys’ for the crew of an upcoming Antarctic voyage.

I met first with Maureen and Julie on a very warm July afternoon at the Centre, where they meet every Tuesday between 9.30 and 4pm. Both Maureen and Julie have a background in administration and are in the process of archiving and digitising written materials found during the redevelopment of Blyth Port. Julie is a retired Accounts Clerk, and Maureen previously worked for Lloyds Register and the NHS. However, despite this wealth of past experience, both feel that the key to their continued work as volunteers with this project has not been so much about possessing the relevant existing skills needed by the project, but far more about their own keen shared interest in history.

The project to archive this treasure trove of maritime documents is currently funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is affiliated with the Woodhorn Archives: home to 800 years of Northumberland's history. Maureen is the project lead and has been a volunteer for approximately 6 years. She initially found out about the project when her husband mentioned there was an archiving volunteer opportunity within the Ports stores. Maureen was then approached by Clive to be the Archive Team Leader and currently has a full complement of volunteers working for her. Maureen also completed a Timeline exhibition which is now on show in the Heritage Centre and has done talks to the WI on conservation materials and the History of ‘The Port of Blyth’.  

The work the team do entails cataloguing, cleaning and digitising all documents from the Port of Blyth stores. The completed documents are then stored in the Port Archives. They deal with Rolled Plans, Flat Plans, Minute Books, Ledgers, Photographs and Photograph Albums, Correspondence and Posters. As it happens, the heritage work is now very popular indeed and the project currently has a waiting list of 8 people awaiting voluntary vacancies.

Maureen offers her team regular supervision and is always at hand to support and advise them. The Archive Team are required to complete a 6 months’ course learning archival skills, e.g. Cataloguing and Conservation and are now studying with Woodhorn Museum to achieve Museum Accreditation.  

Both Maureen and Julie say they love their work, although Maureen did add that initially it was a huge challenge to develop the necessary procedures and systems to tackle the work in the first place. When asked what THE most positive thing about their experience has been, Maureen said it was the opportunity to develop friendship, and Julie described feeling a sense of achievement and of being part of a community. Both also felt that in safeguarding this body of knowledge for the future, they are doing very important work.

Maureen says that the aim of the Blyth Tall Ship project as a whole is essentially to “inspire future generations to use their own adventurous spirit to play a part in the future of Blyth”, and asks that “if anybody has any shipping or maritime memorabilia they wish to donate” she would love to hear from them via the Heritage Centre.

My second meeting at the Heritage Centre was with Janice who, along with her friend Astrid, has set about designing and knitting ‘Ganseys’ for another aspect of the Blyth Tall Ship project: a forthcoming historical voyage that will recreate William Smith’s voyage of 1819. 

A sea captain born in Seaton Sluice, Smith discovered Antarctica in a ship built in Blyth but he was never recognised for his discovery. Instead, he died a pauper and history has forgotten him – until now.  In 2019, to celebrate the 200th anniversary year of Smith’s voyage, a ship of a similar size and style, named the Williams II, is being refitted and will set sail to Antarctica. A crew of around 150 will be trained by the Blyth Tall Ship Project and some 70-80 of them will have the opportunity to sail the Williams II on various legs of the expedition.

Gansey Sketch

Janice is a very passionate designer, creator and advocate of the traditional, water resistant fishermen’s jumper called the ‘Gansey’, which are not only practical because they keep sailors warm and dry, but they’re also specific to the fishing area where they are made, with many small fishing villages developing their own design and patterns through history. Although no evidence has come to light of a specific Blyth Gansey design, a serendipitous idea for the crew of the Williams II to have their own 'uniform' Gansey has taken off.

Janice laughs when describing her initial offer of help for the project, saying “Well I just talked myself into it really” when, during a chance meeting with Clive, she and Astrid found themselves ‘volunteering’ their services.

At the beginning Janice, who’d never had any experience of such a large project nor anything to do with sailing, felt that her only real qualification for this project was that she was a keen knitter who happened to live in the area. Nevertheless, in February 2016 she and Astrid began designing and knitting the prototype Ganseys for the planned Antarctica voyage.

They designed the Gansey in 5 sizes for the approximate 150 crew members (yet to be recruited) who will be taking part in the project. Each Gansey takes 100-200 hours work so knitting 150 of them was obviously going to be a huge undertaking for anyone. However, once the project received publicity, Janice and Astrid were shocked to find themselves inundated with over 550 offers of help from all over the world!

“For the prestige of the project”, several of the overseas offers to volunteer have been taken, with preference given to those with connections to Blyth or the Antarctic, although for some it was purely a matter of chance. There are currently over 100 people from all over Britain, Europe, USA, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and India making Ganseys for the venture, and more will be recruited when they know the actual sizes of the crew. Kits started to be sent out only in April 2017 and yet several completed Ganseys have already been returned.

Janice describes the design process as a very creative and interesting activity. Initially they created prototypes, using funding from the Blyth Croft Masons that allowed them to buy needles and yarn to get started. They then acquired funding from the Northumberland County Council Community Chest to continue the work.

The design itself incorporates the three sail logo of the Blyth Tall Ship Project as the focal point along with an anchor, the Northumberland flag on the sleeves, cable to signify rope, ladders for rigging, criss crosses to signify Blyth staithes, waves for the sea and diamonds to represent ALL volunteers on the Tall Ship Project.

Traditionally, wives and girlfriends sometimes included the initials of the wearer and this tradition is now being continued with Blyth Tall Ship Ganseys that will have a label added just above the welt of the gansey, with space for both the name of the knitter and the wearer.

Janice says she feels she has really developed to become much more outgoing since becoming involved in the project. She and Astrid have been invited to give talks about the project - the most challenging of which was probably talking to a group of 5 to 7 year olds at a school near Hexham. Right from creating the gansey in the first place to talking publicly about the project, her work has given Janice a sense of achievement and given her experiences way beyond anything she imagined at the start. “It’s just mushroomed really,” she said. “It’s our little bit: not just the knitting, but the whole international side of things I mean. Astrid and I have really enjoyed doing all of that”. Indeed, the friends have also been managed to develop whole new skillsets too, with Astrid dealing with all the correspondence, and Janice mastering the spreadsheets!

When asked what has been THE most positive thing about her volunteering experience, Janice replied “Oh, definitely meeting such interesting people”.  Not only does she feel that her knowledge and confidence have increased, but she also says “my life is therefore much richer because of my involvement!”

It has been a real pleasure finding out about the wealth of volunteering activities offered by the Blyth Tall Ship project and, when reflecting back upon all my blogging experiences and interviews with volunteers, I can see running through them all that there are some abiding themes. All have wanted to do something different from their day to day life, all have felt challenged by their volunteering experience, but overall every individual has expressed positive effects from their involvement.

If you'd like to try volunteering yourself, you can find a wealth of available Northumberland opportunities on our Volunteer Connect database.  If you are already a volunteer and you'd like to share your own volunteering adventures in Northumberland, please email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The marketing mix



Northumberland CVA

Providing 30 years of support to the voluntary and community sector


August: Getting the word out


As demand for services and competition for resources climb ever higher, effective marketing is becoming increasingly imperative for voluntary and community sector organisations, but many find it very difficult to apply hard profit-related business marketing tools to the voluntary and community sector. Instead, they struggle constantly with the idea of marketing their mission and the necessity of shoehorning their services into the concept of ‘product’.

In creating an effective strategic marketing plan, any organisation needs to address a number of key issues – well known in marketing circles as the ‘Seven Ps of Marketing’. This blog offers an adaptation of the ‘Seven Ps of Marketing’ tool for use in the voluntary and community sector.



1: ‘Product’ and evidence of need

For the majority of voluntary and community sector organisations, ‘Product’ is the service or services they provide that reflect their underpinning values, although it may also be intellectual property, goods or simply an idea. But the ability to define your ‘Product’ is not enough in the voluntary and community sector, where it is also vital when you want to apply for funding that you have clear evidence of the need for your product.

2: Juggling different customers for the same product

VCS organisations differ from most commercial businesses in that their product is likely to have more than one customer or consumer for the same ‘sale’ of a product. For instance, there are the funders/commissioners who pay for the provision of the product as well as the beneficiaries/service-users who consume the product. Then there are volunteers who while helping to provide the product also consume the volunteering opportunity attached to it, as well as any other stakeholders who have legitimacy and power in the buying and selling process such as your trustees, the Charity Commission and/or benchmark providers. That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air.

3: Beware competing market forces

Beneficiaries often have little or no choice in the product they consume and yet demand (and deserve) a high quality service, while the funders/commissioners are the ones with the buying power and yet offer increasingly less for the products they fund or procure. Voluntary and community provider therefore increasingly find themselves squeezed tight by the competing forces of the market place until it becomes more and more attractive, and often necessary, to develop products that can go direct to the market: products that the beneficiaries themselves will be prepared to pay for or that the organisation can develop new target markets for.



4: Actual price versus true cost

The price of a product supplied by the voluntary sector to a beneficiary may be zero to that beneficiary, but the true cost to the organisation of supplying it is certainly not zero, and so it is vital that the actual price quoted to funders/commissioners accurately reflects this true cost of supplying the service. This is what will drive your fundraising requirements.

5: Perceived value versus true cost

A product is worth only as much as customers are prepared to pay for it and this depends on the ‘perceived value’, which may have little to do with the true cost of delivering the product and more to do with the emotional benefits the customer can see in its features. This becomes particularly significant for the voluntary sector since their product needs to elicit an emotional response from diverse customers. For instance, for a commissioner looking at several broadly similar bids for the provision of a product, the perceived value that will make yours stand out is likely to involve the lowest cost per intervention, whereas the beneficiary’s emotions will be triggered by the satisfaction he feels from the service he receives as well as by what he knows about the ethos of your organisation.

6: The importance of ‘Brand’

That means that the importance of strong branding to voluntary and community sector organisations cannot be overstated since a customer bases his/her process of valuing a product not on its technical or scientific merits, which are often expressed in complicated jargon, but rather on the emotions triggered by a subjective “vortex of images and ideas” that make up a brand platform. You then need to make sure that your ‘brand integrity’ is maintained. Don’t say one thing in your marketing messages and then do another in delivery.

7: The dangers of labelling a service ‘FREE’

Many voluntary and community sector organisations fail to recognise the danger that ‘free of charge’ may equate to ‘worthless’ in the minds of customers (whichever target market they are from). Even if a product is provided free of charge, you can enhance its perceived value by ensuring its true value is recognised. So it is imperative that you fully understand what price your product would bring in a commercial market (including an element of profit) even if you are offering it free or subsidised, and find a way of conveying that in your marketing.

8: Don’t apologise for charging

If a VCS organisation is in the position of needing or wanting to charge for services, they should never apologise for it. To do so is to give the customer the impression that the product is not worth the money that is being charged.



9: Be clear who you’re promoting to

Having a wonderful product means nothing unless the benefits can be clearly communicated to target markets. You need to be clear who your target markets are and pitch your communications in the most effective way for each one. Are you ‘selling’ direct to the beneficiary (similar to traditional Business to Consumer marketing - B2C), or are you selling to other VCS organisations or to funders/commissioners (similar to Business to Business marketing - B2B)?

10: What they base their buying decisions on

In commercial business, B2C marketing is aimed at consumers who make decisions based not only on price but on popularity, status, and other emotional triggers, whereas in the voluntary and community sector it usually (but not always) relies very little on price and is often more about the philosophy and ethos of the organisation rather than the product itself. On the other hand, B2B buyers in commercial business make decisions primarily on price and profit potential whereas in the VCS they’re not so much concerned with profit as with money saving, and emotional triggers count much more than in the world of business commerce.

11: Don’t confuse your message

It’s a mistake to try to target everyone at one time because your message will be confusing and will end up reaching no-one. For the majority of voluntary and community organisations, the cost of promotional activities is paramount – even if there is a budget – so don’t waste money by trying to make your marketing campaign the be all and end all for everyone.

12: Make sure you deliver

As well as being concise and to the point, being consistent so that they resonate easier, and focusing on the wants of the customer and what’s in it for them, above all your marketing messages must deliver on promises. If you can’t deliver on the promises you’ve made in your marketing, your reputation will become tarnished very quickly and no amount of positive marketing will make a difference. News of bad service travels fast.



14: ‘Place’ for the voluntary sector

‘Place’ is about having a presence in all of the best positions to influence your target markets. In marketing terms, it means anywhere an organisation comes into contact with its target markets. For the VCS, ‘place’ is everywhere your organisation has a presence, for instance on the high street, your website, on social media, in memberships of networks, in the referral lists of partner organisations, in the press, at events, in promotional materials etc.

15: It’s about accessibility

There is no point occupying a prime site in a business park if your target markets can’t get there, and don’t forget that the cost of accessing your organisation and its products needs to be low cost or free for the beneficiary and reasonable for businesses, so do take the availability and cost of public transport as well as local car parking charges etc. into account too. But equally for voluntary organisations, accessibility is about providing marketing material in the most appropriate formats and languages for your target markets.

16: Hearts and minds

‘Place’ is also about knowing where your target markets have a presence. For instance, it’s no good being active on Facebook if your target markets all prefer Twitter. You need to know what places your target markets occupy and could come into contact with your brand and products. These places are where you need to be to have the best chance of your marketing messages entering the hearts and minds of your target markets.



17: People buy people, not products

A voluntary organisation’s ‘people’ can create a powerful effect during product/service delivery since they are one of the few elements of a brand that customers and other stakeholders can see and interact with.

18: Your people are part of your brand

Your people need to be aware that they are individual spokespersons for your brand and can influence success positively or negatively based on their words and their actions – and this includes your volunteers. They therefore need a clear understanding of and commitment to the mission of your organisation.

19: They need to know their stuff

Your people need to fully understand the benefits and features not just of the organisation and the brand, but also of the individual products and services so they are able to describe them accurately and succinctly. For volunteers, it’s okay for them to have that detailed understanding only of the part of the organisation they are involved in so long as they also have a good overview of the rest and know who to refer enquiries to.

20: The ‘elevator pitch’

The term 'elevator pitch' reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver a summary in the time it takes for an elevator ride – approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. It’s a great idea to have your pitches worked out in advance of the launch of a service and extremely important that your people are familiar with them – there’s nothing worse for an interested customer than to have his enquiry about the merits of your new service met with a confused waffling reply.

21: The right people over the right skills

It is critical to any organisation’s image and success, but especially VCS organisations, that their people not only have the skills necessary to do the job, but that they are the right people with the right commitment and qualities to ‘own’ the organisational vision and guiding values that make up your brand platform. These qualities are perhaps more important within the voluntary and community sector than existing skills since you can train the right person up in the skills necessary for the job much easier than you can alter the qualities that make up that person.

22: Other people vital to your success

For the voluntary sector, ‘People’ can also refer to the relationships your organisation needs to form and the networks you need to build to get your products to the beneficiary and/or to be in the best position to influence funders/commissioners. Do your people have access to the appropriate networks for effective relationship-forming? Do they fully understand your brand, products and services so they can promote them effectively?



23: Clear underpinning processes

This element of the marketing mix is about how the service is delivered and how success is measured. All services need to be underpinned by clearly defined and efficient processes to avoid confusion and to promote a consistent service, as well as to produce evidence that allows you to monitor your performance against KPIs. This includes your marketing activities; they too need clearly defined processes so you can keep track of what works best.

24: Make sure everyone knows

‘Process’ means that everyone knows what to do and how to do it. There’s no point in lovingly creating a wonderfully artistic process map if it stays in your project/contract file and your people are unaware of it. And don’t forget to make these processes part of your induction package so new people are able to get on with the job effectively as soon as they’re in post. A smoothly running project can create its own positive marketing.

25: Don’t blind your customers with science

Customers are not interested in what your processes are, only that they work. The moment you start talking about how efficient you’ve made the internal workings of your project, you’ve lost them. They simply need to know what’s in it for them – how your product or service will satisfy their particular need in the most efficient way possible.

26: Fit for purpose

Many voluntary organisations still follow processes that were developed years ago and may no longer be fit for purpose in a fast-changing digital landscape. Processes need to be regularly reviewed to ensure you continue to work in the best way to reach your target markets.


Physical Evidence

27: It’s not just about monitoring

In marketing terms, ‘Physical Evidence’ is not only about showing you’ve achieved your objectives. A service is usually intangible in that it can’t be seen by a customer before it is delivered, but you can reduce a customer’s perceived risk of taking up your service by providing evidence of previous satisfied customers through telling stories and displaying images. Think about how you can turn your data into attractive and informative visual representations of the effectiveness of our products/services, but don’t forget the importance of gathering the relevant consents to be able to use this data for marketing purposes?

28: More than one customer

Remember what we’ve already talked about in other sections above; in the voluntary and community sector you’re likely to have more than one customer, so for voluntary organisations this aspect of the marketing mix is about providing evidence to ALL customers that they can trust and have confidence in your organisation by reflecting your ethos and brand in everything that you do. Don’t neglect your beneficiaries in favour of providing physical evidence to your funders/commissioners, or vice versa.

29: Environmental factors

Physical Evidence’ can also mean environment – for instance your reception area or office – where your customer comes into contact with your organisation. It can include factors such as furnishings, colour, layout and noise level and you can improve your customers’ impressions of your organisation and brand a great deal simply by improving the physical environment.   Ask yourself what the customer sees when accessing our buildings / offices / services. Is this a true reflection of the organisation’s ethos and brand, and does it portray an appropriate level of professionalism?

30: Branded goods

Offering physical evidence such as customised marketing materials, e.g. a branded calendar or pen, to your customers can be a valuable tangible reminder of your brand or service. For many voluntary organisations though it can be difficult to find funds to do this so it is vital that a realistic marketing budget is included in your funding bids. You also need to think carefully about which tangible reminders would be most appropriate for our target markets.


So now we’ve gone through the Seven Ps of Marketing and it is time to get started with creating your strategic marketing plan. The seven steps explained in this blog will give you a framework to work through and will help you answer key questions and improve your messaging so you can market your organisation effectively.

NCVO’s KnowHowNonprofit web pages have a wealth of further information on marketing and communication in the voluntary and community sector.



GDPR: Our own journey to compliance – Part 1


Jackie Auld

31st July 2017


We have less than ten months left to make sure we are GDPR compliant by the time the new EU Data Protection legislation comes into force on 25th May 2018.

As an infrastructure charity that offers advice and guidance to voluntary and community organisations across the county, Northumberland CVA has an obligation to raise awareness and share good practice on important issues like Data Protection. However, neither I nor any of my colleagues can claim to be an expert in GDPR. In fact, to get our own house in order we’re relying heavily on the guidance that is trickling from the Information Commissioner’s Office and other national advisory and regulatory organisations. Then it occurred to us that, apart from continuing to circulate information as it becomes available, possibly the best way we may really be able to help voluntary and community groups in Northumberland is to share our own journey towards GDPR compliance.

This blog then is the first in a series that will chart our trials and tribulations along the way.

Whilst here at Northumberland CVA we’ve been trying our best to raise awareness of the coming changes for some time now via our fortnightly VCS Support Services and monthly Northumberland Trustees’ Network e-bulletins, it’s only relatively recently we’ve begun work in earnest on our own journey to compliance. Much of this work has landed on my desk but since it was I who brought the spectre of GDPR to the attention of our CEO and board of trustees in the first place (long before the Brexit vote cast doubt on whether we would need to comply) perhaps I shouldn’t complain.

We actually began the process more than a year ago with the ICO’s document: ‘Preparing for the GDPR: 12 Steps to Take Now’ (now updated).   We formed a working group to look at how we measured up against all the points. Then there was a long gap while the whole country wrestled with the results of the Brexit referendum and how that might impact on any new legislation coming from Europe. And of course now we know that Brexit makes no difference; the UK will still be an EU member when the new legislation comes into force and if we want to continue trading with Europe after Brexit, we will need to comply with the GDPR beyond it.

I’ve had to do a lot of reading along the way! I do find it much easier to absorb complicated information from the printed page rather than onscreen (perhaps it’s an age thing) - and boy is this stuff dry. So dry, it’s a wonder the downloaded documents haven’t burst onto flames on my desk as I’ve turned the pages. Once the Brexit question was settled and information and guidance started to emerge from the ICO, I resolutely began my reading marathon and wrote a report for the board on our progress, with suggestions for our next steps. We reformed our little working group and decided on the order in which to tackle them. Two priorities of equal importance quickly became clear:

1: Any consent we gain now on personal data, and may still need to rely on beyond the implementation date must meet the GDPR standard if we want to continue processing it post–May 2018:

Although the new regulations don’t come into effect until 25th May 2018, we do still need to review current privacy statements and consent requests as a matter of urgency and, where we need to rely on consent as our legal basis for processing data beyond May without having to seek fresh consent, we need to ensure they meet the GDPR compliance standard by updating everything as soon as possible.

At the time of writing, the ICO is still busy analysing the feedback received from their Consent Guidance Consultation, which closed at the end of March, and will not be able to publish the final version of the guidance until the Article 29 Working Party of European Data Protection Authorities (WP29), of which the ICO is a member, has agreed and published its Europe-wide consent guidelines – the latest timetable for this to be agreed and adopted is December 2017. In the meantime, the ICO intends to publish a summary of the responses to the consultation. That means we need to rely on the draft guidance now and hope that no major changes are made later.


  • Consent must be freely given; this means giving people genuine ongoing choice and control over how you use their data.
  • It must cover the controller’s name, the purposes of the processing and the types of processing activity.
  • Consent requests must be prominent, unbundled from other terms and conditions, concise and easy to understand, and user-friendly.
  • Consent should be obvious and require a positive action to opt in.
  • Explicit consent must be expressly confirmed in words, rather than by any other positive action.
  • There is no set time limit for consent. How long it lasts will depend on the context. You should review and refresh consent as appropriate.

At Northumberland CVA, we have several different projects for which we rely on consent to process the personal data of both volunteers and service users, and so we need to have all the emergency work on consent finished as soon as possible. In the short term, this may mean removing existing options – for instance, the online application form for membership of Northumberland VCS Assembly – until we have mastered the digital consent requirements.


2: Before we can move forward, we need to know exactly what information we currently hold, where it came from, who we share it with, and whether we still need to keep it.

We decided to look upon this aspect of the process as an opportunity to have a good clear out of the information we hold. As far as electronic information is concerned, one positive has been our recent acquisition of a new database, which means much of this work has already been done.  

Similarly, an audit on the physical records we keep has been simpler because of a recent shredding exercise.  

A lot of the physical information we previously held was in the form of records from projects gone by, from previous employees, and from organisations we’ve had no contact with for some time – perhaps because the person who used to be our contact has now left the organisation. But physical records may also include any “photographs, films, microfilms, printed material, maps and plans”, which is something to keep in mind as you go through your own information. We’ve now reviewed our retention policy and archived or destroyed any hard copy information that contains personal data accordingly.

As part of our information audit, I also sat with each member of staff in turn and identified everything they may hold/use in both personal and networked folders, on laptops and memory sticks, as well as any physical data they store in their own work area. I’m currently in the process of putting all this together in an inventory document in time for our next sub-group meeting.


Even though we set out to address just these two issues initially, I’ve found that they’ve inevitably bled into the other aspects listed in the Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - 12 steps to take now document. I’ve found myself embarking on activities that are actually part of carrying out a ‘Privacy Impact Assessment’, as suggested in Step 3, in that I’m starting to map the way information flows, the different ways we process data, and the points at which we need to, either ask for consent or rely on other legal bases for processing. Call me odd if you like, but I find I’m actually enjoying the task.

Just as well, since I think this will form a huge part of my work coming up. I’ll let you know in our next blog in this series how we’re getting on. If you’d like to share your own progress towards GDPR compliance please do get in touch: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01670 858688.

If you’d like to know more about the GDPR, visit the ICO webpages: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/

Ships rigging



Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


So far into my Blogging experience I have been amazed by the varied opportunities available and the capacities of our volunteers. My next series of Blog ‘adventures’ have a rather nautical theme and I would like to thank Clive Gray Chief Executive at ‘Blyth Tall Ship’ project for asking volunteers to offer up their stories.

My first meeting was with 18-year-old Callum, who volunteers with the Ocean Youth Trust North (OYTN) and with the Sea Cadets (SC).

Callum started with the Sea Cadets when he was only 12, and when he turned 18 he became an adult volunteer as a Unit Training Officer where he helps develop the training and the syllabus for cadets aged 12 and over. Basically Callum makes sure all of his kids (all 70 of them!) attend the required modules and attain the expected knowledge and skill level. He says that getting involved has been the best thing he has ever done – especially because it also led directly to his involvement with the Ocean Youth Trust when he was 15 years old.

With OYTN Callum began as a volunteer ‘Bosun’ and after a year and a half gained his ‘Watch Leader’ qualification and is currently working towards his ‘Day Skipper’ qualification. Callum normally commits himself to at least 17 days per year volunteering in his role and is usually based in North Shields on the James Cook, a 21 metre (70 foot), 54 tonne steel-hulled ketch.

The children who take part in these ‘on board adventures’, from Friday to Sunday or Monday to Friday, and who gain valuable experiences from the scheme are usually from schools or special needs groups. However, the training is also open to any other member of the public, aged between 12 and 25 years old. The youngsters are divided into 2-3 groups and, as Watch Leader, Callum supervises one of these groups to develop their confidence and team work abilities, and to foster their independence. He also teaches them sailing skills, such as hoisting and dropping sails, raising the flags, watching the line and fenders both in and out of port, as well as directing his charges in basic food preparation. Essentially the children learn ‘team work’ and how to keep themselves and others safe in an emergency – they can spend at least the first 5 hours on board just doing their safety briefs.

Callum laughs when describing his first experience with OYTN because he didn’t expect to be thrown in the deep end and was very surprised to find himself sailing on a boat to Inverness and the Orkneys on his very first day!

He also found it very easy to ‘fit in’ as a new crew member: “We were all in the same boat and became bonded by living in such close confines”. In fact, some of Callum’s best friends today are people he became friends with on that very first voyage!

Callum has recently been accepted in a role working for the MOD and feels his volunteering had a direct impact upon gaining this appointment. Starting off with a stammer, very little self-esteem and no confidence, he feels he progressed “massively” as a person from his experiences. He explained that he developed strategies such as singing, dancing and humour primarily to help the children learn but found they also helped him to develop his own self-belief. In fact, Callum also points out that he no longer has that stammer!

Volunteering on the James Cook offers lots of challenging situations since disabled people often present with unique risks depending on their disability. Furthermore, although the layout of the ship can be an advantage when considering safety as there is literally nowhere to hide, some children – especially those with behaviour problems – can be a huge challenge to keep safe. Therefore, it is essential that the crew learn from every situation. Feedback is given via a post voyage de-briefing session over a cuppa, where the crew can reflect on all aspects of the voyage. The young people themselves are also encouraged to keep a ‘reflective Logbook’ to show their own development and growth during the journey, and many of these young people go on to join OYTN as volunteers themselves.

When asked what THE most positive thing about volunteering has been Callum said it was the sense of achievement when seeing the children he has worked with evolve into independent and responsible individuals. “By the end of the week we just need to shout “Lines and fenders!”, and the kids immediately jump to it. it’s very impressive!”

If you have found Callum's story inspiring and wish to volunteer, please visit NCVA website for all volunteer vacancies.  If you already volunteer and you'd like to talk about your own volunteering adventures, please get in touch with me.  Simply email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Northumberland CVA

Providing 30 years of support to the voluntary and community sector


July: Being part of the conversation


Social media is not just a fad! It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, so it’s important for voluntary and community sector organisations to be part of the conversation.

Millions of people use social media platforms in their personal lives, but when applied to organisational rather than individual use, the term ‘Social Media’ can conjure up a vast daunting landscape for many of the smaller voluntary and community sector organisations. And yet it offers a great, cost-effective way for organisations to connect with new supporters and tell them about how their work is making a difference.

So, whether you’re a complete novice or you’re already active on social media at home and simply want some ideas on how to use it to promote your work, this collection of 30 tips aims to help you get the most from social media for your organisation. Of course, if you’re already a whizz on social media, perhaps you have some of your own tips you could share (contact me, please!).

What can social media do for my organisation?

1: Help you keep in touch with existing supporters and engage with new audiences

Shared values and causes can hold communities together. Social media offer opportunities to bring together and engage with individuals who share your values, and will hopefully support your cause. Sharing good content on your platforms will allow you to scale up your communications to reach far more people than more traditional forms of marketing can, and help you to build relationships with new as well as existing audiences in real time far quicker than you could otherwise do.


2: Help build your brand

Think about your online brand presence as a spider’s web, with your own website at the centre as your base for managing your social media activity. If you link great social media content to your website activity then, like a spider, you can draw in to your website those people who have been engaged by your interesting and timely social media content. With good content, you never know how far your brand will reach. If it goes viral you will have tens of thousands of people looking and sharing. And of course ‘brand presence’ is no longer just about pushing your logo out everywhere. With social media, it is just as much about people, voice and relationships.


3: Help raise awareness

Social media is a great way to raise awareness of your cause, to make the case for change and to make it easy for your supporters to take action. The most successful campaigns have a clear message aimed at a specific audience. Think Movember – a campaign about men’s health that went viral, Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, or the No Makeup Selfie campaign that raised £8m for Cancer Research, even though the charity itself didn’t actually start the campaign themselves. Good ideas like these can spread like wildfire.


4: Help you to fundraise

It isn’t social networking sites themselves which raise money; it’s the people who use them. Social media simply offers opportunities for organisations to nurture strong relationships that will allow them to encourage supporters to donate. If you’re going to be doing a sponsored fun run or organising a tea party to raise funds for instance, you could talk about getting fit on social media, or about the chance to meet other people from your area and make the ask as part of your content. Or you could talk about a particularly emotive case study and link your content to a JustGiving account or a page on your own website where you make it easy for people to donate.


5: Save you money

Traditional media is generally a one-way street with limited reach. You read leaflets, posters and press ads, listen to radio and watch TV but there are only very limited ways for people to give their thoughts. Social media is a two –way conversation online that available on 24/7, offers unlimited reach, and is free (nearly - you can boost your content to a carefully targeted audience for relatively small amounts)! Creating a profile on the vast majority of social media sites costs absolutely nothing, although developing and maintaining the site can be costly in terms of time – particularly in the early days (However, managing traditional marketing campaigns take time too). Also, social media is all about ‘word of mouth’. If your content is good, your supporters will share it and so, in effect, it’s about referrals, which every marketer knows is the best form of advertising.


6: Help you to manage a crisis

Crises come in many forms: from fire, flood or other natural disasters to the sudden death of a Chair or CEO, from cyber-attacks or data breaches to complaints on social media that suddenly get wildly out of hand. Whatever the crisis, there needs to be as short a delay as possible in telling your stakeholders, even if your information at the early stage of the crisis is incomplete. Using social media is an ideal way of responding rapidly with open and honest communications. Organisations that try to cover up or delay informing stakeholders about the crisis are generally criticized more afterwards for their delay than for the incident itself. And if the crisis is one that affects your physical place of work, like flooding or fire, then social media is something you can access from anywhere.


How can we get started?

7: Start with a social media strategy

Writing a social media strategy before you begin that defines your audience, what you want to achieve, and how you will do it is absolutely essential. Ask yourself a range of questions, such as: Who do you want to reach? What so they already know about you? What social media platforms are they using? What do you want to accomplish? What is your unique selling point (USP)? What key points do you want to get across? What resources do you have (including time)? How will your new social media strategy support and add value to your main organisational strategy? Who will be responsible for creating and posting your content? How can it help your team in their roles?


8: Decide how you can showcase your organisation at its best

You have the power to decide how you want people to see your organisation. Should your image be quirky, formal or professional? Think about your key messages, your tone of voice and any particular images you could use. What do you want them to convey? How do they fit with your brand? How can they help you to achieve your campaign goals? People are much more likely to follow and engage with your organization if they feel they’re actually engaging with a real person, so use real people on your social media profiles rather than simply your logo.


9: Choose your platforms

Although it's tempting to sign up to as many free accounts as you can, you need to keep in mind that keeping them all up to date can be very time consuming and so it makes sense to limit the accounts you set up to those that will do you the most good. For example, Twitter is a good platform for campaigning and engaging with key influencers, Facebook is great for creating communities and encouraging conversations, and LinkedIn is the place to be to make connections in the private sector. Instagram is best for sharing high quality images with engaged audiences, YouTube for posting short, snappy and funny videos, and Pinterest is great for creating and collecting visual pieces of multimedia. If you work with young people, then take heed of the message from one 15 year old who spent a week doing work experience with nfpSynergy and was asked to write a report and a blog on his experience of social media and how charities can use it to engaging with young people.


10: Listen

What’s a conversation without listening?   Remember, it’s not all about you. If you want to join in a conversation you need to listen to what’s already being said. And if you want to spark a new conversation, you still need to listen first to find out what people are interested in talking about. So take some time to learn the etiquette of your chosen platform, find out what other VCS organisations in the same sector are saying first, and find some relevant conversations to join in with.


11: Jump in!

To get a feel for it, start by replying to those sharing information about topics your organisation is interested in, strike up conversations with key stakeholders. Take it to the next step by posting about your upcoming events to get people there, or posting great photos during or after the event and thank people for getting involved. Post links to stories you think your followers might find interesting. Celebrate your achievements by announcing any awards you receive etc. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time – everyone on social media had to start somewhere.

12: Continue to participate

Aim to post something new weekly. Continue adding events, sharing links to blog posts and press releases. Ask for and give recommendations. Ask and answer questions. Take part in group discussions. The more you participate, the more you’ll build credibility and trust within your area of work/speciality. But be careful not to overshare. Your message is far-reaching and generally speaking, once it’s out there, there is very little you can do to retrieve it.


What can we use for content?

13: Keep it relevant, valuable and interesting

Ultimately, you want readers to see your content, read it, like it, comment on it and then share it with their own followers, so it’s worth taking the time and effort to create and deliver content. Get it right and the return on investment can be amazing. However, making your content interesting enough so that people want to view it and engage with it can be difficult and time-consuming.


14: Questions, questions, questions

Proactively engaging with existing supporters by asking questions is a great way of opening up the lines of communication for new audiences and those who want to make direct contact with you. Why not reach out to your supporters with Q&As or polls based on the work you do and then build your content around the responses you get. That way, people will feel an investment in your content. They are then more likely to be happy to help share the content on numerous social networks so they can continue to be part of the wider process.


15: Say it with images

Use pictures to make your content stand out. It’s been said that one picture is worth ten thousand words and it’s true that on social media it’s images, videos and human reactions that really bring your work to life. Case studies told through eye-catching, inspiring or emotive images can help forge deeper, more emotional connections with your supporters. Donations will be more forthcoming too if people can see that their contribution could help somebody just like themselves or people they know. Potential volunteers are more likely to get involved if they can picture the people they will help.


16: Become a trusted source

If you are a specialist organisation or have expert knowledge, then tell the world. If you regularly create and share compelling content that will help your followers, your credibility and reputation will grow and you will become a trusted resource that your followers know they can look to when they need help or have a question.


17: Employ the rule of thirds

Hootsuite advises using the ‘rule of thirds’ – all you need to remember is that one third of your content should be about your own organisation’s work, one third should be content relevant to your organisation and your audience and the final third should involve talking to your audience.


18: Be generous

The best way to make friends on social media is to help others promote their own events, share their news and celebrate their achievements. In return, they’re then far more likely to like what you say, comment on it and then share your content with their own followers.


How can we manage it all?

19: Create an editorial calendar

Knowing what you’ll say and when you’ll say it saves time so you can get other important things done, and having a clear plan can solve the problem of getting stuck when inspiration fails. Using a calendar also allows you to schedule your messages for optimal times – increasing the odds they’ll get seen – and helps to make sure you’re on track with deadlines. Having an editorial calendar means you can plan ahead around key events such as Christmas, Easter and whatever awareness days /weeks are relevant for your work. It can ensure you create variety in your content rather than getting stuck focusing on one channel. There are lots of examples of editorial calendar templates that are available to download from the internet.


20: Integrate your social media with your other communications

This can be as easy as timing communications to go out over different channels at the same time. For instance, you could launch a press release, an online video, a Twitter hashtag and a Facebook campaign all at the same time to maximise your impact. You could set up a Hootsuite or Buffer account to schedule social media content in advance across multiple platforms, although you mustn’t forget to still check regularly to see if you have any feedback from your followers.


21: Always include a call to action

Calls to action encourage followers to dig deeper into your organisation. Of course, each social media platform has its own calls to action– think Facebook’s ‘Share’ or the Twitter ‘re-tweet’ buttons – that can help to spread your word and do your campaign the world of good. But consider the spider’s web analogy again: to attract people into the centre of the web – your own website – in order to build your brand, you need to include links in your content itself that will take them to a specific destination. It’s all very well engaging people with great text and pulling their heart strings with wonderful images, but if there is no call to action your efforts will be wasted. So think about what you want followers to do when they view your content – donate, register for an event, sign a petition etc. – and make it easy for them by taking them to a place where they can do just that.


22: Give staff and volunteers clear guidelines on what they can and can’t say and do

You need to decide yourself whether it’s better for your particular organisation if its people have individual social media accounts, which can become difficult to control and measure, or if there will simply be a common organisational account. There are very definite plusses to having individual accounts though, in that people are more likely to engage with real people, with real personalities, but there are negatives too. For instance, you do need to be sure that they are behaving appropriately in a way that fits with your brand. Having guidelines that cover these issues makes good sense so that keeping up organisational social media does not bleed too much into the personal and dilute your brand messages.


23: Be realistic about your resources

Social media does not stick to normal business hours; it’s 24/7. Some organisations are prepared to monitor their accounts at any time of day or night, whilst others fit it in when they can. If you fit into the latter group, then you need to set expectations so your supporters know to expect a delayed response – try pinning community guidelines to the top of your page. Also, be realistic about the time commitment you really need to make to do social media properly and allocate the resource for it. Once you’ve built up a following, there’s nothing worse than having only outdated information on there and no new content for months.


24: Keep your profile updated

As more people look to social media to find out information about organisations, it’s vital that your social media profile is current and professional so you don’t waste the opportunity to promote your organisation and gain new supporters. Keep it up to date with contact details, projects, awards etc. to give viewers as much information about your organisation as they need to prompt them to engage with you.


How can we measure our success?

25: Think about your overall aims

Think about what you need to be able to report on. This could be the number of signatures on a petition, the amount of money raised, or the number of volunteer recruited. Whatever it is, use this language to create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals, be specific about how social media can help you and how you will measure it.


26: Take a snapshot of your starting point

Benchmark where you stand right at the start of any campaign, so you will know what to measure activity against later. Don’t just think about the obvious, such as existing Facebook friends and Twitter followers, referrals you’ve had already from social media, and website traffic etc. Also consider things like SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings and referrals and customer satisfaction scores, as well as the return on investment you’ve had before using traditional marketing methods.


27: Use a URL shortener

A URL shortener is an online application that converts a regular URL (the web address that starts with http://) into its condensed format. Bit.ly and Goo.gl are good examples. There are several advantages to using a shortener: not only will they save on characters in sites like Twitter (which limits posts to only 140 characters) and can usually be customised to link with your campaign, you can also access metrics via the shortened link to keep track on activity through the link.


28: Take advantage of the other metrics available

There are a whole host of other tools available to help you measure the impact of your social media efforts. Many of the main social media networks have their own analytics, including Facebook Insights and Twitter analytics. Then there are other tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetreach, Buffer and many more. Google Analytics offers the option of setting up a personalised dashboard that will keep track of the goals critical to your business via URLs, time, pages per visit, or events. It will measure not only how much traffic is coming to your website via social media but also what people are doing as a result, and you can you can print the results to show in pounds and pence the real impact your social media efforts are having.


29: Get your board on board

Think about how your reporting could encourage your board or management team to support social media. Don’t only present them with the raw data. Instead, use the data to tell the story – as with traditional forms of marketing, it’s always more effective to illustrate the real impact of a campaign through case studies of the people you’ve helped, so tell stories about individual supporters’ journeys that have involved social media.


30: Don’t forget, not everything that can be measured matters

Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”. Just because you can report a number, doesn’t mean you always should. In social media it can be easy to get carried away with statistics like follower growth, but they may not be the best way to demonstrate achievement towards your organisational or project aims – particularly if this activity is not then being converted into measures of real success such as funds raised or volunteer recruitment. If you’re not careful, you may miss the signs that something is not working, which is why it is always best to measure both on and offline metrics and to only report the numbers you can take action on.


In putting together these 30 tips to help you get the most from social media, we have relied on some invaluable resources, the main ones being from CharityComms, NCVO’s KnowhowNonprofit, Inspiria Media and Kiss Metrics. Thank you to all of these organisations for providing such a wealth of information.

If you have any thoughts on social media or on this blog you'd like to share, please get in touch: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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